Will Andrew Fifita and the Sharks get the job done against arch rivals the Dragons again next season? Credit: NRL Photos Copyright: NRL Photos
Sharks v Sea Eagles
Sharks players don’t need to cast their minds too far in order to remember the semi-final heartbreak suffered at the hands of September experts Manly. With the exception of the Sea Eagles and Storm, premiership windows aren't open for very long in this competition and any third-straight semi-final exit in 2014 just might trigger the end of the Sharks' recent form spurt given their hardships throughout 2013.
In fact, not only did a drugs cloud hang over the Shire for most of last year, but Cronulla have been Manly's whipping boys for the past five, losing eight of their past nine, including almost identical 25-18 (Round 6) and 24-18 (semi-final) efforts in 2013.
The Sharks remain largely intact from the squad that had its heart ripped out of them after 80 pulsating minutes against the Sea Eagles last season and while coaches and players will never admit it, reversing the rematch this year could go a long way in keeping that window wide open.
Sharks v Tigers
The defection of Blake Ayshford to the Shire officially takes the tally to six former Tigers at the joint, once again sending everyone's imagination into overdrive on the aesthetic appeal of the make-up of what can only be described as the Tigershark.
And whatever this morphed animal may look like, it was enough for coach Shane Flanagan to pinch yet another Tiger from Concord and stick him in a line-up that has played September football for the past two years.
Coaches and players never admit it, but the win is just that extra bit enjoyable when it comes against the club that shut the door in your face, and Ayshford gets an opportunity to stick it to his old club the way his old team-mates have. Losers of four straight against the Tigers, Cronulla – along with Andrew Fifita, Beau Ryan, John Morris, Chris Heighington and Bryce Gibbs – swept the merger-club in 2013 with two strong wins.
Sharks v Dragons
A far as local derbies go, they don't come closer than the current ledger between Cronulla and the St George Illawarra, with the record standing at 16-15 in favour of the Sharks (with one draw).
And that final win was secured in the final minute of their most recent clash in Wollongong, where prop Andrew Fifita chased down his own toe poke to complete one of the more dramatic finishes in 2013.
True to form, both sides have split their past six games, meaning bragging rights could once again go on the line next season when a new-look Dragons side face their more fancied neighbours.
Check back on NRL.com on Wednesday for details of your team's schedule with the release of the 2014 NRL Draw.